Dr. Mrinal Chatterjee
The world is celebrating 50th Earth day on 22 April 2020 at a time when the mankind is fighting a pandemic. Many of the countries including India are at a locked down state. People are confined indoors- anxiously looking at a future- which does not look bright. Ironically, the earth is enjoying a rare respite from the onslaught on its environment, eco-system and resources by the human beings. Positive changes could be seen in the environment even in this brief respite. The air and water pollution level in many places have come down. The river eco-system is gradually getting back to its normal self.
Make no mistake that our planet is poised at the brink of a severe environmental crisis.
Pollution of air, water and soil require millions of years to recoup. Industry and motor vehicle exhaust are the number one pollutants. Heavy metals, nitrates and plastic are toxins responsible for pollution. While water pollution is caused by urban runoff, acid rainand oil spill; air pollution is caused by various gases and toxins released by industries, factories and combustion of fossil fuels; soil pollution is majorly caused by industrial waste that deprives soil from essential nutrients.
Natural resource depletion is another crucial current environmental problems. Fossil fuel consumption results in emission of Greenhouse gases, which is responsible for global warming and climate change. Globally, people are taking efforts to shift to renewable sources of energy like solar, wind, biogas and geothermal energy. The cost of installing the infrastructure and maintaining these sources has plummeted in the recent years.
Our forests are natural sinks of carbon dioxide and produce fresh oxygen as well as helps in regulating temperature and rainfall. Every year tree cover is lost due to growing population demand for more food, shelter and cloth.
Human activity is leading to the extinction of species and habitats and and loss of bio-diversity. Eco systems, which took millions of years to perfect, are in danger when any species population is decimating. Balance of natural processes like pollination is crucial to the survival of the eco-system and human activity threatens the same.
Climate change is yet another environmental problem that has surfaced in last couple of decades. It occurs due to rise in global warming which occurs due to increase in temperature of atmosphere by burning of fossil fuels and release of harmful gases by industries. Climate change has various harmful effects but not limited to melting of polar ice, change in seasons, occurrence of new diseases, frequent occurrence of floods and change in overall weather scenario.
The over consumption of resources and creation of plastics are creating a global crisis of waste disposal. Developed countries are notorious for producing an excessive amount of waste or garbage and dumping their waste in the oceans and, less developed countries. Plastic, fast food, packaging and cheap electronic wastes threaten the well-being of humans. Waste disposal is one of urgent current environmental problem.
Current environmental problems make us vulnerable to disasters and tragedies, now and in the future. We are in a state of planetary emergency, with environmental problems piling up high around us. Unless we address the various issues prudently and seriously we are surely doomed for disaster. Current environmental problems require urgent attention.
With this in mind and with the goal of raising awareness about mankind’s role in protecting our natural world, the first Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970. Earth Day started out as more of a political movement- it was a protest in favor of a more eco-conscious society. However, today it has become an occasion for people to gather together and do or resolve to do their bit to protect nature and save the earth.
What we can do to celebrate earth day at a locked down state:
If you can, go plant a tree. Or water the plants. Declutter and clean your home and vicinity. Resolve not to waste natural resources- food, water, and electricity. Resolve to reduce your carbon foot print. Consume less. Reuse and recycle.
Save the earth. It is only one we have to live on.